A wild animal in its natural habitat is a mesmerizing experience. I abhor zoos. Sea World be damned. When we decided to move to Uganda, I knew that I had to go see the gorillas before it’s too late. There are only about 700 mountain gorillas left in the world. Three hundred and twenty of them live in Uganda. Think about those numbers! They are staggeringly low. Because of the political climate in East Africa combined with poachers, sadly the mountain gorilla may not be around forever.
On Easter Weekend, Jay, myself and two friends hired Kombi Tours to take us gorilla tracking. (As an aside, there is a phenomenal Netlix doc on the mountain gorillas in the Congo: Virunga. Stop reading my blog and go watch it NOW. OK, actually, finish reading my blog and then go watch it.) Our driver picked us up from our homes in Kampala, and 10 hours later, we arrived at Mahogany Springs Safari Lodge in Bwindi Impenetrable National Forest in Southwest Uganda. Because we arrived on the cusp of the office season, we were able to negotiate discounted hotel room rates. After obtaining our gorilla permits ($600), we met up with our guide, John, pictured below, who led us on a 2.5-hour bush whacking trek through the rain forest. It was a challenging hike, but well worth the end result.
Mountain Gorillas aren’t naturally accustomed to human interaction. So how did we get so close to these powerful animals? The Uganda Wildlife Authority has identified a handful of families that they slowly, over a two-year period, introduced humans to. After that acclimatization period, most of the gorillas, if you adhere to the seven-meter distance, will simply ignore you. Others may show off. We were able to spend one hour with the Oruzogo Group, a family of 17 mountain gorillas and two silverbacks. It was incredible. The biggest challenge was to remember to put the camera down, and just hang out with these remarkable creatures.
Now that we’ve seen the gorillas, what’s in store next for The Wunderbug? After being laid off, I’ve gone through several stages of grief over the past week.
Stage 1: Sadness.
Stage 2: Anger. What the F, Leidos?
Stage 3: Acceptance.
Stage 4: Adaptation.
Stage 4 may be a Work in Progress, but it’s good to have goals, right? In forcing myself deeper into the adaptation stage, I realize I still owe you posts on life in Kampala. So as we’re working on our next steps, I’ll work on sharing with you all the life we’ve experienced here over the last month.
Now go watch Virunga!